A not-so-everyday story of WI members

ONE of the best-loved films of the past 30 years, Calendar Girls was turned into a successful musical by Gary Barlow and Tim Firth, and comes to the Theatre Royal Bath from Tuesday 5th to Saturday 9th March, with an all-star cast including Laurie Brett (EastEnders), Maureen Nolan (one of the Nolan Sisters and the lead in Blood Brothers), Lyn Paul (The New Seekers), Honeysuckle Weeks (Foyle’s War), Helen Pearson (Hollyoaks), Samantha Seager (Coronation Street) and Liz Carney (The Full Monty, The Mousetrap).

A group of ordinary members of a small Yorkshire Women’s Institute are prompted to do an extraordinary thing following the death of the much-loved husband of Annie (played by Julie Walters in the film, and Laurie Brett on this tour). Not all of them are great bakers, so, led by the feisty Ruth (Helen Mirren in the film, Maureen Nolan on stage), they set out to create a nude calendar to raise money for charity.

Overturning preconceptions – the WI, that’s all about jam and Jerusalem, isn’t it – is a dangerous business and none of the women are prepared for the emotional and personal challenges they will face as the business of actually making the calendar gets under way.

The real-life story of the Calendar Girls launched a global phenomenon: a million copycat calendars, a record-breaking movie, stage play and the musical written by Gary Barlow and Tim Firth. For this new touring production there is a reimagined book and new music, more songs and more laughter.

Tim Firth and Gary Barlow said: “The chance to look again with fresh eyes at our musical is something that came as an unexpected opportunity during lockdown and we’re both hugely excited not only with the shape we found, but also to work on a new production of it with such an amazing cast.”

As well as her well-known role in EastEnders, Laurie Brett has recently starred in ITV’s Shetland and DC Gemma Darlington alongside David Tennant in Channel 4’s Deadwater Fell. On stage, she has starred in many plays and musicals, including Band of Gold, Looking Good Dead, Les Misérables in the West End and The Rocky Horror Picture Show on tour.

Maureen Nolan (Ruth) has worked alongside some of the biggest names in show business from Motorhead to Frank Sinatra. In 2022 Maureen and her sisters were the recipients of The Variety Club’s prestigious Legends of the Industry Award.  She played the demanding lead in Blood Brothers for two years in the West End, and on tour, and has also appeared in Footloose, Peter Pan, Mum’s The Word, Naked Truth, The Eva Cassidy Story and Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.

The tour supports Blood Cancer UK, the charity dedicated to funding research into all blood cancers including leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma, as well as offering information and support to blood cancer patients.